Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mango Season

Looks like it will be a bumper crop this year. That's fine with me -- mangos are my favorite tropical fruit. This particular tree on the Gallon Jug Farm is so loaded with fruit that several large branches have snapped. And it's not the only one.

As I mentioned in a previous post, mangos are in the same family as the poisonwood tree: Anacardiaceae. And while they are delicious, they do provoke an allergic reaction in some people. I am among those that can eat and enjoy them, but I can't pick them or cut them up without breaking out in an itchy rash. I don't let that stop me though!

Monday, June 28, 2010

In the USA

Just a note to let you all know that we are currently in the US of A. We normally make an annual visit to buy necessities like socks and underwear. This year we came up early to surprise my dad on Father's Day. We'll be back in Gallon Jug in mid-August and back on schedule then. I do have weekly posts planned in the meantime, so please stay tuned. Happy summer!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Puma by the frog pond

We've had some really hot weather lately here in Gallon Jug Estate. The data on this image shows it is 77 degrees (F) on a full moon night, and this puma is taking advantage of it. He or she is out and about, passing by the seasonal frog pond (see 5/28/2010 post). Not much detail can be seen on this individual, other than it appears sleek and healthy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spider Lily

It's finally wet enough that the spider lilies are blooming. This wild lily (Hymenocallis sp.) grows from a bulb and likes wet places. Behind these lilies is a small stream that flows through the Gallon Jug Farm. The lilies have popped up throughout Gallon Jug Farm's inundated pastures and are a beautiful early wet season sight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nice Jaguar Sequence

A very nice jaguar sequence from Ben at Chan Chich Lodge just came in. I've cropped the images to enlarge the jaguar for your viewing pleasure. That removed the data which some of you enjoy, so just to let you know, it was taken on 28 May at 06:47 AM on the Bajo Trail intersection.

Beyond that ... what can I tell you? It appears to be a male but not Curious Jorge or Prowler although admittedly it is a bit difficult to make strong comparisons when the animal is in this position. It's also somewhat dimly lit due to the early hour and infra-red use. So for the time being, we'll have to wait for more images to confirm its identity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Woo hoo! We have a Winner!

Drum roll please ... the moment we've all been waiting for ... the drawing for a free stay at beautiful Chan Chich Lodge! Pictured are Lodge manager Ben and a young volunteer about to the select winning ticket from the drum. The inset photo shows members of the local school's dance troupe displaying the winning ticket.

For more years than I can recall, Chan Chich Lodge has sponsored a raffle to benefit the Gallon Jug Community School high school scholarship fund. As explained on their website: "Each year, in a considerable effort to raise money for the Gallon Jug Community School Scholarship Fund, Chan Chich Lodge raffles a great prize in the name of education: a 4-night double occupancy all-inclusive stay at the Lodge, including room, meals, beverages and daytime activities. If you are interested in purchasing a raffle ticket please email us at info@chanchich.com " See also this link.

This year a record-breaking $7000 was raised to be used toward higher education for deserving Gallon Jug students. Due to the tragic loss of beloved teachers Mike & Jill and their children earlier this year, the school has been renamed the Casey Family Community School. I know Mike & Jill would be delighted that so many students will have a chance to attend high school. Our thanks to all those that bought tickets.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Gorged Looks Like

In case you are wondering, this is what a gorged boa constrictor snake (Boa constrictor) looks like. That lump is a chicken swallowed whole. Boas are fairly large, heavy bodied snakes that occur through Mexico, Central, and South America and some islands. This snake shows the pattern and coloration typical of Belizean boas. They do well in a variety of habitats which makes them a fairly common snake in forest, farm or village. Boas are non-venomous and as the name implies, kill by constriction, mostly birds and small mammals. They also bear live young.

Apparently this one, in the medium size range at about 4-feet, was caught once before in Sylvester Village after having eaten someone's chicken. It was then released in the bush. According to our friend Alan, a couple of weeks passed and it showed up again, caught in the act. This time the chicken owners brought it to Gallon Jug for release. It will have to travel several miles to return to the scene of the crime in Sylvester Village. This snake is lucky it wasn't killed, either as a two time offender or mistaken for a venomous fer-de-lance as is too often the case. My thanks to Alan for sharing his pictures with us.

Newsflash! Alan reports "... the guys related a tale to me this morning . Apparently they heard some noise from behind the lumber shed and went to see what it was, a large boa had caught a fox and had wrapped around it to squeeze it to death, as they went to see closer, the snake started to swallow the fox head first, they watched how the snake unhinged its jaw and swallowed the fox piece by piece, one of the guys went to his house to get a video camera but by the time he returned the fox was in the snake stomach and the snake was squeezing its way under some lumber to wait out the digestion process..."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A baby Piam-piam

The other evening, the Brown Jays (Cyanocorax morio) were scolding like mad when I took our little dog for a walk. That's just kind of what jays do, noisy cantankerous birds that they are. Belizeans often call them Piam-piam for the calls they make (check out Brown Jay vocalizations here; if you scroll toward the bottom of the page, you'll find the recording from Rio Bravo Research Area in Belize -- that's just north of us about 30 miles).

Brown Jays are found in open areas, like the Gallon Jug farm and many many other habitats as well. As it turns out, the adult jays made it clear that we were being warned away from this recent Brown Jay fledgling (above). The stumpy tail and yellow eye-ring give it away as a youngster. Although it was on the ground, it wasn't marooned or in any great distress. In fact, it was making short experimental flights and even gaining a little altitude as the adults squawked nearby. I have no doubt they were shouting encouragement as it found its wings.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My what big eyes you have

We've had a lot of rain lately, but then I guess I've mentioned a few times that wet season well and truly is here. That was thanks to Tropical Storm Agatha which only brought us rain and not the damaging winds experienced south of us in Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. We are back in that time of year when all the storms get named. Now is the time to beg the Maya gods for a benign hurricane season.

We brought in the camera trap we've been using for a drying out period here in the office. Although the cameras are weather-sealed, it is asking a bit much to expect electronics to function well under the current deluges. Luckily, a few images have trickled in from Ben's cameras at Chan Chich Lodge. In a nice patch of sunshine, this white-tail fawn looks a bit surprised, or perhaps it sees something down the trail. Big eyes, big ears.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the Fringe

We've had a lot of rain over the past week. Makes me believe wet season is well and truly here. Apparently the frogs and toads agree. They are chorusing like crazy, gathering at the seasonal pools that have accumulated, looking for one thing: love.

It seems that any time in nature when there is an aggregation of animals, there is another species standing by to take advantage of it. That would be the case with the fringe-lipped bats (Trachops cirrhosus; above) whose specialty is frogs. Notice the warty-appearing "papillae" around the mouth and chin? These are not just decoration. No, they have a very specialized purpose. Since frogs don't necessarily want to be eaten, many have evolved distasteful chemicals secreted through the skin. The bat flies by, brushing the frog with just a little "kiss" with the papillae. That tiny taste test tells the bat whether this frog is a prey possibility or better left alone.

The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) has evolved a neat defense against the fringe-lipped bat. The males chorus in short bursts -- ack! ack! ack! -- and then abruptly fall silent. After all, just one lonely voice calling out ... and the bat can home right in on that one foolish individual. Bon appetit and good by Mr. Big Mouth!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Socially Progressing

When mama Social Flycatcher was absent the nest, I pointed my camera into the opening and got these shots, two days apart. In the top left image, the first chick has hatched, and two days later, the second and third have hatched. Staggered hatching is called "asynchronous." It is thought to benefit the parents by spreading their workload and reducing sibling rivalry since the young are at slightly different stages of development.

Meanwhile, both parents are feeding the chicks and also spending a fair amount of time keeping them warm. These particular Social Flycatchers are not in the least spooked by us moving around on the veranda. I'm sure they are well familiar with us and have long since realized we pose no threat. And who knows, one of them may even have been raised in this same hanging basket location, a favorite with Socials over the past nearly decade.

Postscript: Just before this was to be published, I decided to check the nest as it had seemed suspiciously quiet all day. I peeked in only to find it ... empty. Something happened to the chicks overnight -- I suspect a snake -- although I did check the ground to make sure they hadn't somehow been tipped out. With the nest right outside my window, I can't help but be a little sad, especially for the hardworking parents. Now the question is ... will they re-nest?